A warm hearth and hearty foods: those two things can feel like manna from heaven on a wintry day. But it’s not always easy to find eateries that satisfy both needs. Here are a few that have menus to stoke the appetite — and well-stoked fireplaces, to boot.
The rustic Agoyo Lounge, which is tucked into Inn on the Alameda (303 East Alameda St., 505-984-2121, innonthealameda.com/agoyo-lounge) aims to serve both hotel guests and local residents with a full bar, a comfort food-heavy menu, and a blazing, continuously stoked kiva fireplace. There’s a “social hour” from 4 to 5 p.m. featuring free wine for hotel guests. For everyone else, there’s a happy hour featuring $1 off all drinks from 5 to 6:30 p.m.
The bar has an ambitious tequila program and a fun selection of cocktails, including some — like the Long Island Iced Tea ($9) — that you probably haven’t seen or sipped in a long time. On the particularly icy post-holiday night we visited, a folk singer with an acoustic guitar underscored the retro vibe while an amorous couple snuggled and smooched in front of the fire. The Hot Santa ($8) blends Jim Beam with hot water, lemon juice, and agave nectar — a sweet concoction served in a pot-bellied cup that warms the hands as well as the heart.
The menu ranges from local favorites like chips and dips, nachos, and chicken wings, to soups, salads, huevos rancheros, tacos, and enchiladas, including a tofu choice. A Paleo Plate ($18) pays homage to contemporary diet trends with zucchini “zoodles,” spinach, squash, and avocado sided with chicken, lamb, or salmon. We opted for a very creditable green chile cheeseburger ($16). There were no bells and whistles (or condiments) topping the sizable grass-fed beef patty, and it needed none. The soft ciabatta roll absorbed the meat juices and made the whole thing that much more interesting. The Maverick ($14) is a fine, savory take on a grilled cheese sammie. Swapping gooey, slightly musky brie for the usual cheddar and topped with a generous amount of smoky jalapeño bacon, the sandwich hit all the right notes — something we would return for, even in warmer weather.
Warmed by the toddy, the fire, and our simple, satisfying suppers, we opted to end the evening with an old-school dessert. The Banana Split ($11), which drew aahs from the neighboring table, featured three small scoops of ice cream, chocolate and caramel sauces, four mounds of whipped cream, fresh blueberries and strawberries, and some toasted walnuts that added crunch to the creamy collaboration on the plate. — Patricia West-Barker
Back in 1944, when Rosalea Murphy opened the Pink Adobe restaurant and its across-the-way bar, the Dragon Room (406 Old Santa Fe Trail, 505-983-7712, thepinkadobe.com/dragonroom.php), she couldn’t possibly have foreseen the 21st-century pop culture prevalence of dragons in the wake of Game of Thrones. The bar must have seen a windfall in recent years, with the unprecedented number of visitors pursuing the opportunity to sup amid dragon-themed decor and paraphernalia. This lair practically epitomizes “hole in the wall,” with a tree growing up through the middle of the room, and it feels like the perfect spot to quaff a mug of ale — say, a Marble IPA ($6) — and fill your belly with something hearty from a bowl — perhaps the Dragon Room’s legendary Gypsy Stew ($11): brick-red with tomatoes and heavy with chicken and green chile, served with a slab of cake-sweet blue piñon cornbread. Of course, you can step in to warm your hands by the glowing corner kiva fireplace and nosh on a bowl of free popcorn while you knock back one of the Dragon Room’s margaritas, but if your appetite is more intense, seek out the Petite Dunigan ($23), a 6-ounce version of the Pink’s signature steak dish, a New York strip slathered in a green chile mushroom sauce. The Dragon Room is a perfect cool and shady hideaway during the bright, hot afternoons of summer, but it’s equally suited for the chilliest days and shortest nights of the year. In the land of dragons, winter is always coming. — Laurel Gladden
La Casa Sena (125 E. Palace Ave., 505-988-9232, lacasasena.com) may be best known for its beautiful, seasonal outdoor patio, but the restaurant’s interior can also offer comfort and shelter from winter’s chill. Set in one of Santa Fe’s oldest hacienda-style adobe homes, it offers a large fireplace that faces the entry, welcoming diners and casting a warming glow on surrounding tables. Stopping in for an early lunch on a recent weekday, we found ourselves in a nearly empty main dining room that slowly filled over the next hour. Opened by gallerist Gerald Peters in 1983, the restaurant is hung with fine art and features a menu its website describes as “New American West cuisine.”
While many of the choices do spring from New Mexican roots (enchiladas, stuffed poblano peppers, the ubiquitous green chile cheeseburger), seafood, and dishes with a strong Asian influence (ahi tuna tacos, wasabi crab, and kale salads) also share the bill. A case in point: the Thai Chile Pork Egg Rolls ($13). Stuffed with minced pork, carrots, onions, and chives, the crisp shell was neither too crunchy nor too greasy. Standing upright in a puddle of Sriracha-kissed peanut sauce and wearing a top hat of frisée and thinly sliced radishes, it was a perfect introduction to the more international side of the menu.
Green chile stew ($9) was the seasonal soup choice the day we visited. The broth was rich, well seasoned, and not too spicy, the mild heat making a delayed appearance at the back of the throat. Although there were more carrots in the bowl than we are used to seeing in the traditional preparation, the diced beef and potatoes were tender and tasty. The Santa Fe Chimayó Red Chile Bowl ($16) — a simple and delicious blend of pinto beans and shredded pork topped with melting shreds of cheddar cheese — was presented not in a bowl but in a cheeky pink corn husk. The red chile had great flavor but, again, was not packing much heat. A fresh-tasting flour tortilla from Alicia’s Tortilleria completed the plate.
Coffee is on the pricey side ($4.75) at this white-tablecloth restaurant, but the brew is more than decent and the cup is truly bottomless, complementing the Dulce de Cajeta Churro ($10), a crisp, tender, cooked-to-order cruller served with a scatter of fresh berries and an excellent chilled milk-chocolate soup for dipping. Comfort comes in many forms. — P.W.B.
If you time things right in the bar at Rio Chama Steakhouse (414 Old Santa Fe Trail, 505-955-0765, riochamasteakhouse.com), you can nab a seat on the big slouchy couch or one of the plush oversized chairs by the bar’s powerful gas fireplace. If you’re there for one of the games showing on Rio Chama’s multiple TVs, fist-bump your pals, ’cause you’ll also have a direct view of the biggest screen. This isn’t the ideal spot for formal knife-and-fork eating, since you’ll have to operate off a coffee table, but it’s a perfectly serviceable surface for a mountain of soupy nachos ($14-$16), blanketed with cheese, guacamole, sour cream, diced tomato, smoky roasted green chile, disks of sometimes mouth-searing fresh jalapeño, and either black beans or your choice of meat. Upholstered booths along each wall are perfect for quiet clandestine chats or shoulder-to-shoulder gatherings. These spacious tables are much better suited for party-sized indulgences like fondue or the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink Chama Chop salad ($15), a rainbow of greens, corn kernels, roasted red pepper, pepitas, blue cheese, avocado, tomatoes, and boiled egg (with or without bacon and chicken), dressed with a cumin-touched vinaigrette. It ain’t health food, but it’s about as close as you’ll get in a highfalutin’ sports bar. — L.G.
On a particularly cold afternoon or night, you might think yourself lucky to snag a seat in one of the generous wingback chairs by the fire at Del Charro (101 W. Alameda St., 505-954-0320, delcharro.com), the saloon that wraps around the corner of Don Gaspar and Alameda and encourages you to linger with its low-slung ceiling, deep hues, and surfaces of wood, brick, and leather (some of which might be faux). A few of the individuals responsible for building and maintaining that fire are veritable pyromaniacs — before long the flames will be raging, and you might be reconsidering your position, eyeing a seat in one of the red leather-upholstered bar chairs, the comfy captain’s chairs that ring nearby tables, or along the cushioned banco looking out over the room from along the north wall. As any good Wild West watering hole should, Del Charro offers a reasonable list of wines, beers, and margaritas, with the famous house version ($7.50) delivered Woolworth-style, in a beehive-shaped cocktail shaker so you can refill your glass with just a little more. The menu covers typical bar fare, like wings, nachos, tacos, and a seriously picante pepper-Jack and Gouda-based chile con queso ($7). There’s also a smoky, tangy, herby, and mouth-tingling “stuffed” burger ($11.50) and the delightful Santa Fe tostada ($8.75). The latter features mixed greens, grated cheese, olives, pico de gallo, zesty pepperoncini, and perfect avocado (along with chicken, salmon, or tuna), served in a crispy, flaky, edible tortilla bowl with house-made lemon thyme vinaigrette on the side. Some of the daily specials are real winners, like Tuesday’s pork belly tacos (two for $7), drizzled with green chile crema and served with black beans and rice, amounting to a full, filling meal. — L.G.
The Living Room at Inn and Spa at Loretto (211 Old Santa Fe Trail, 505-988-5531, hotelloretto.com/eat-drink) may be too large to be considered cozy, though the overall decor contributes to a feeling of intimacy while the spacing between tables preserves private conversation.
Sometimes the room is bustling; sometimes it’s very quiet, as it was on a recent Monday night. The large gas fireplace hung with a larger-than-life bighorn sheep skull was blazing, as it always is on cold nights. Fronted by two oversized green Chesterfield sofas that encourage curling up in the corners, the hearth dominates the room. Sturdy black leather-like armchairs, cushioned banquettes, and an array of small stylish pillows offset the depth of the seats, making the room and the seating more visually appealing and physically comfortable.
The full bar recognizes the need to ward off winter chills with a selection of four “Warmers” on its sizeable menu, all priced at $10. Whiskies pair naturally with apples, and the fragrant Hot Apple Cider with a shot of Maker’s Mark bourbon successfully takes the edge off a long, chilly, frustrating day.
The lounge food list is less inclusive than the drinks menu, but it covers the Santa Fe basics — tacos, sliders, guac and salsa, wings, and nachos all make an appearance here. The chicken quesadilla ($12) stuffs strips of grilled chicken and warm melty cheese between crisp, griddled flour tortillas. Sided with guacamole, sour cream, and a fresh pico de gallo, it’s sturdy enough to share. The serving of flash-fried calamari ($13) is also quite generous. The heavily battered squid rings and tentacles are a little greasy but not off-puttingly so. The calamari is tender and not overcooked, as can often be the case. The green chile is barely discernible in the accompanying aioli, while the lime chile dipping sauce offers a sweet counterpoint, particularly to the slices of jalapeño fried along with the squid.
In the Living Room, you may not see the same quality cuisine you would find in the hotel’s dining room, Luminaria. But not all restaurant experiences are about fine dining. Here you’ll find good service, a warm atmosphere, and, during happy hour (4 to 6:30 p.m. daily), great prices. All but three of the selections on the menu are half-price, with the calamari scaled down to $6.50 and the quesadilla to $6. So, if a bargain also warms your heart, you could experience a minor heat wave here. — P.W.B.